The planes came in formation, bearing the red insignia of the rising sun and spitting death. They darted down on the Hickam Air Force base near Pearl Harbor, leaving in their wake death and destruction and ending the close friendship of Armando Galella and John Horan.
Galella was now left with a broken heart and a fading story to tell.
“Looking up, I couldn’t recognize who they were, they were so high,” recalled 96-year-old World War II veteran Armando “Chick” Galella during a Pearl Harbor commemoration held at the Intrepid Museum on Thursday,recalling the Japanese war planes.
“Where’s John?” he recalled asking colleagues. He later learned that his best friend had died in the attack.
When he wasn’t choking back tears at the sad memories Galella charmed the crowd with his purple lei, red white and blue striped tie, and a sailor hat that read ‘Pearl Harbor Survivor.’
Last December 7, Galella visited Pearl Harbor with his family for the first time since the attack. This year, his family and friends joined him as he was honored at the museum as he threw a wreath of flowers into the scalloped waters of the Hudson River from the retired battleship’s deck. It was a blustery and sunny day.
The sun also shone on the “date that will live in infamy” quoting FDR, in 1941 when Japan surprise-attacked America on Hawaiian harbor shaped like a pearl, killing 2,403 Americans and leaving America no choice but to enter World War II.
“I was 20 years old, I got up early that morning to go to downtown Honolulu,” said Galella. “I wanted to eat my breakfast early, and all of the sudden I hear ‘vroom vroom.’ I’m like, ‘what the hell is happening?’”The ceremony honored the lost, injured, and the 2,500 survivors.
“I’m not a hero, I’m a survivor,” said Galella as he wiped his tears.
Photo of Sgt. Armando Galella posing with his mom.